the port of Sydney the schooner, Currency Lass. The
owner, Norris Carthew, was on board in the somewhat
unusual position of mate ; the master's name purported
to be William Kirkup; the cook was a Hawaiian boy,
Joseph Amalu; and there were two hands before the
mast, Thomas Hadden and Eichard Hemstead, the lat-
ter chosen partly because of his humble character,
partly because he had an odd-job-man's handiness with
tools. The Currency Lass was bound for the South
Sea Islands, and first of all for Butaritari in the Gil-
berts, on a register; but it was understood about the
harbour that her cruise was more than half a pleasure
trip. A friend of the late Grant Sanderson (of Auchen-
troon and Kilclarty) might have recognised in that tall-
masted ship, the transformed and rechristened Dream;
and a Lloyd's surveyor, had the services of such an one
been called in requisition, must have found abundant
subject of remark.
For time, during her three years' inaction, had eaten
deep into the Dream and her fittings ; she had sold in
consequence a shade above her value as old junk ; and
466 THE WRECKER.
the three adventurers had scarce been able to afford even
the most vital repairs. The rigging, indeed, had been
partly renewed, and the rest set up j all Grant Sander-
son's old canvas had been patched together into one
decently serviceable suit of sails j Grant Sanderson's
masts still stood, and might have wondered at them-
selves. "I haven't the heart to tap them," Captain
Wicks used to observe, as he squinted up their height
or patted their rotundity; and "as rotten as our fore-
mast " was an accepted metaphor in the ship's company.
The sequel rather suggests it may have been sounder than
was thought; but no one knew for certain, just as no one
except the captain appreciated the dangers of the cruise.
The captain, indeed, saw with clear eyes and spoke his
mind aloud ; and though a man of an astonishing hot-
blooded courage, following life and taking its dangers in
the spirit of a hound upon the slot, he had made a point
of a big whaleboat. " Take your choice," he had said ;
" either new masts and rigging or that boat. I simply
ain't going to sea without the one or the other. Chicken
coops are good enough, no doubt, and so is a dinghy;
but they ain't for Joe." And his partners had been
forced to consent, and saw six and thirty pounds of their
small capital vanish in the turn of a hand.
All four had toiled the best part of six weeks getting
ready; and though Captain Wicks was of course not
Been or heard of, a fifth was there to help them, a fellow
in a bushy red beard, which lie would sometimes lay
THE BUDGET OF THE "CURRENCY LASS.** 467
aside when lie was below, and who strikingly resembled
Captain Wicks in voice and character. As for Captain
Kirkup, he did not appear till the last moment, when he
proved to be a burly mariner, bearded like Abou Ben
Adhem. All the way down the harbour and through the
Heads, his milk-white whiskers blew in the wind and
were conspicuous from shore ; but the Currency Lass had
no sooner turned her back upon the lighthouse, than he
went below for the inside of five seconds and reappeared
clean shaven. So many doublings and devices were
required to get to sea with an unseaworthy ship and a
captain that was "wanted." Nor might even these have
sufficed, but for the fact that Hadden was a public char-
acter, and the whole cruise regarded with an eye of indul-
gence as one of Tom's engaging eccentricities. The
ship, besides, had been a yacht before ; and it came the
more natural to allow her still some of the dangerous
liberties of her old employment.
A strange ship they had made of it, her lofty spars
disfigured with patched canvas, her panelled cabin fitted
for a traderoom with rude shelves. And the life they
led in that anomalous schooner was no less curious than
herself. Amalu alone berthed forward; the rest occupied
staterooms, camped upon the satin divans, and sat down
in Grant Sanderson's parquetry smoking-room to meals
of junk and potatoes, bad of their kind and often scant
in quantity. Hemstead grumbled; Tommy had occasional
moments of revolt and increased the ordinary by a few
468 THE WRECKER.
haphazard tins or a bottle of his own brown sherry.
But Hemstead grumbled from habit, Tommy revolted
only for the moment, and there was underneath a real
and general acquiescence in these hardships. For be-
sides onions and potatoes, the Currency Lass may be
said to have gone to sea without stores. She carried two
thousand pounds' worth of assorted trade, advanced on
credit, their whole hope and fortune. It was upon this
that they subsisted mice in their own granary. They
dined upon their future profits j and every scanty meal
was so much in the savings bank.
Republican as were their manners, there was no prac-
tical, at least no dangerous, lack of discipline. Wicks
was the only sailor on board, there was none to criticise ;
and besides, he was so easy-going, and so merry-minded,
that none could bear to disappoint him. Carthew did
his best, partly for the love of doing it, partly for love
of the captain ; Amalu was a willing drudge, and even
Hemstead and Hadden turned to upon occasion with
a will. Tommy's department was the trade and trade-
room; he would work down in the hold or over the
shelves of the cabin, till the Sydney dandy was unrecog-
nizable ; come up at last, draw a bucket of sea- water,
bathe, change, and lie down on deck over a big sheaf of
Sydney Heralds and Dead Birds, or perhaps with a vol-
ume of Buckle's History of Civilisation, the standard
work selected for that cruise. In the latter case, a
smile went round the ship, for Buckle almost invariably
THE BUDGET OF THE "CURRENCY LASS." 469
laid his student out, and when Tom awoke again he was
almost always in the humour for brown sherry. The
connection was so well established that "a glass of
Buckle" or "a bottle of civilisation" became current
pleasantries on board the Currency Lass.
Hemstead's province was that of the repairs, and he
had his hands full. Nothing on board but was decayed
in a proportion ; the lamps leaked ; so did the decks ;
door-knobs came off in the hand, mouldings parted com-
pany with the panels, the pump declined to suck, and
the defective bathroom came near to swamp the ship.
Wicks insisted that all the nails were long ago con-
sumed, and that she was only glued together by the
rust. " You shouldn't make me laugh so much, Tommy,"
he would say. " I'm afraid I'll shake the sternpost out
of her." And, as Hemstead went to and fro with his
tool basket on an endless round of tinkering, Wicks lost
no opportunity of chaffing him upon his duties. "If
you'd turn to at sailoring or washing paint or something
useful, now," he would say, " I could see the fun of it.
But to be mending things that haven't no insides to
them, appears to me the height of foolishness." And
doubtless these continual pleasantries helped to reassure
the landsmen, who went to and fro unmoved, under cir-
cumstances that might have daunted Nelson.
The weather was from the outset splendid, and the
vrind fair and steady. The ship sailed like a witch.
"This Currency Lass is a powerful old girl, and has
470 THE WRECKER.
more complaints than I would care to put a name on,"
the captain would say, as he pricked the chart; "but
she could show her blooming heels to anything of her
size in the Western Pacific." To wash decks, relieve the
wheel, do the day's work after dinner on the smoking-
room table, and take in kites at night, such was the
easy routine of their life. In the evening above all, if
Tommy had produced some of his civilisation yarns
and music were the rule. Amalu had a sweet Hawaiian
voice ; and Hemstead, a great hand upon the banjo,
accompanied his own quavering tenor with effect. There
was a sense in which the little man could sing. It was
great to hear him deliver My Boy Tammie in Austrylian;
and the words (some of the worst of the ruffian Mac-
neil's) were hailed in his version with inextinguishable
Where hye ye been a' dye ?
he would ask, and answer himself :
I've been by burn and flowery brye,
Meadow green an' mountain grye,
Courtin' o' this young thing,
Just come frye her mammie.
It was the accepted jest for all hands to greet the con-
clusion of this song with the simultaneous cry: "My
word ! " thus winging the arrow of ridicule with a
feather from the singer's wing. But he had his revenge
with Home, Sweet Home, and Where is my Wandering
Soy To-night 9 ditties into which he threw the most
THE BUDGET OP THE "CURRENCY LASS." 471
intolerable pathos. It appeared he had no home, nor
had ever had one, nor yet any vestige of a family, except
a truculent uncle, a baker in Newcastle, N.S.W. His
domestic sentiment was therefore wholly in the air, and
expressed an unrealised ideal. Or perhaps, of all his
experiences, this of the Currency Lass, with its kindly,
playful, and tolerant society, approached it the most
It is perhaps because I know the sequel, but I can
never think upon this voyage without a profound sense
of pity and mystery ; of the ship (once the whim of a
rich blackguard) faring with her battered fineries and
upon her homely errand, across the plains of ocean, and
past the gorgeous scenery of dawn and sunset ; and the
ship's company, so strangely assembled, so Britishly
chuckle-headed, filling their days with chaff in place of
conversation ; no human book on board with them except
Hadden's Buckle, and not a creature fit either to read
or to understand it ; and the one mark of any civilised
interest, being when Carthew filled in his spare hours
with the pencil and the brush : the whole unconscious
crew of them posting in the meanwhile towards so tragic
Twenty-eight days out of Sydney, on Christmas eve,
they fetched up to the entrance of the lagoon, and plied
all that night outside, keeping their position by the
lights of fishers on the reef and the outlines of the
palms against the cloudy sky. With the break of day,
472 THE WRECKER.
the schooner was hove to, and the signal for a pilot
shown. But it was plain her lights must have been
observed in the darkness by the native fishermen, and
word carried to the settlement, for a boat was already
under way. She came towards /hem across the lagoon
under a great press of sail, lying dangerously down, so
that at times, in the heavier puffs, they thought she
would turn turtle ; covered the distance in fine style,
luffed up smartly alongside, and emitted a haggard look-
ing white man in pyjamas.
" Good-mornin', Cap'n," said he, when he had made
good his entrance. " I was taking you for a Fiji man-of-
war, what with you* flush decks and them spars. Well,
gen'lemen all, here'* wishing you a Merry Christmas and
a Happy New Yec*./' he -added, and lurched against a
"Why, you're never the pilot?" exclaimed Wicks,
studying him with a. profound disfavour. "You've
never taken a ship in don't tell me ! "
"Well, I should guess I have," returned the pilot.
" I'm Captain Dobbs, I am ; and when I take charge, the
captain of that ship can go below and shave."
" But, man alive ! you're drunk, man ! " cried the cap-
"Drunk!" repeated Dobbs. "You can't have seen
much life if you call me drunk. I'm only just begin-
ning. Come night, I won't say ; I guess I'll be properly
full by then. But now I'm the soberest man in all Big
THE BUDGET OF THE " CURRENCY LASS." 473
" It won't do," retorted Wicks. " Not for Joseph, sir.
I can't have you piling up my schooner."
" All right," said Dobbs, " lay and rot where you are,
or take and go in and pile her up for yourself like the
captain of the Leslie. That's business, I guess ; grudged
me twenty dollars' pilotage, and lost twenty thousand in
trade and a brand new schooner ; ripped the keel right
off of her, and she went down in the inside of four min-
utes, and lies in twenty fathom, trade and all."
"What's all this?" cried Wicks. "Trade? What
vessel was this Leslie, anyhow ? "
" Consigned to Cohen and Co., from 'Frisco," returned
the pilot, "and badly wanted. There's a barque inside
filling up for Hamburg you see her spars over there ;
and there's two more ships due, all the way from Ger-
many, one in two months, they say, and one in three ;
and Cohen and Co.'s agent (that's Mr. Topelius) has
taken and lain down with the jaundice on the strength
of it. I guess most people would, in his shoes; no
trade, no copra, and twenty hundred ton of shipping due.
If you've any copra on board, Cap'n, here's your chance.
Topelius will buy, gold down, and give three cents. It's
all found money to him, the way it is, whatever he pays
for it. And that's what come of going back on the
" Excuse me one moment, Captain Dobbs. I wish to
speak with my mate," said the captain, whose face had
begun to shine and his eyes to sparkle.
474 THE WRECKER.
"Please yourself," replied the pilot. "You couldn't
think of offering a man a nip, could you ? just to brace
him up. This kind of thing looks damned inhospitable,
and gives a schooner a bad name."
"I'll talk about that after the anchor's down," re-
turned Wicks, and he drew Carthew forward. " I say,"
he whispered, " here's a fortune."
" How much do you call that ? " asked Carthew.
" I can't put a figure on it yet I daren't ! " said the
captain. " We might cruise twenty years and not find
the match of it. And suppose another ship came in
to-night ? Everything's possible ! And the difficulty is
this Dobbs. He's as drunk as a marine. How can we
trust him ? We ain't insured, worse luck ! "
" Suppose you took him aloft and got him to point out
the channel ? " suggested Carthew. " If he tallied at all
with the chart, and didn't fall out of the rigging, per-
haps we might risk it."
" Well, all's risk here," returned the captain. " Take
the wheel yourself, and stand by. Mind, if there's two
orders, follow mine, not his. Set the cook for'ard with
the heads'ls, and the two others at the main sheet, and
see they don't sit on it." With that he called the pilot ;
they swarmed aloft in the fore rigging, and presently
after there was bawled down the welcome order to ease
sheets and fill away.
At a quarter before nine o'clock on Christmas morn-
ing, the anchor was let go.
THE BUDGET OF THE " CURRENCY LASS." 475
The first cruise of the Currency Lass had thus ended
in a stroke of fortune almost beyond hope. She had
brought two thousand pounds' worth of trade, straight
as a homing pigeon, to the place where it was most
required. And Captain Wicks (or, rather, Captain
Kirkup) showed himself the man to make the best of
his advantage. For hard upon two days he walked a
verandah with Topelius ; for hard upon two days his
partners watched from the neighbouring public house
the field of battle ; and the lamps were not yet lighted on
the evening of the second before the enemy surrendered.
Wicks came across to the Sans Souci, as the saloon was
called, his face nigh black, his eyes almost closed and all
bloodshot, and yet bright as lighted matches.
"Come out here, boys," he said; and when they were
some way off among the palms, " I hold twenty-four,"
he added, in a voice scarce recognizable, and doubtless
referring to the venerable game of cribbage.
" What do you mean ? " asked Tommy.
"I've sold the trade," answered Wicks; "or, rather,
I've sold only some of it, for I kept back all the mess
beef and half the flour and biscuit ; and, by God, we're
still provisioned for four months ! By God, it's as good
as stolen ! "
" My word ! " cried Hemstead.
" But what have you sold it for ? " gasped Carthew
the captain's almost insane excitement shaking ois
476 THE WKECKER.
" Let me tell it my own way," cried Wicks, loosening
his neck. "Let me get at it gradual, or I'll explode.
I've not only sold it, boys, I've wrung out a charter on
my own terms to 'Frisco and back ; on my own terms.
I made a point of it. I fooled him first by making be-
lieve I wanted copra, which of course I knew he wouldn't
hear of couldn't, in fact; and whenever he showed
fight, I trotted out the copra, and that man dived ! I
would take nothing but copra, you see ; and so I've got
the blooming lot in specie all but two short bills on
'Frisco. And the sum? Well, this whole adventure,
including two thousand pounds of credit, cost us two
thousand seven hundred and some odd. That's all paid
back ; in thirty days' cruise we've paid for the schooner
and the trade. Heard ever any man the match of that ?
And it's not all ! For besides that," said the captain,
hammering his words, "we've got Thirteen Blooming
Hundred Pounds of profit to divide. I bled him in four
Thou. ! " he cried, in a voice that broke like a schoolboy's.
For a moment the partners looked upon their chief
with stupefaction, incredulous surprise their only feel-
ing. Tommy was the first to grasp the consequences.
" Here ! " he said, in a hard, business tone. " Come
back to that saloon. I've got to get drunk."
" You must please excuse me, boys," said the captain,
earnestly. " I daren't taste nothing. If I was to drink
one glass of beer, it's my belief I'd have the apoplexy.
The last scrimmage, and the blooming triumph, pretty
nigh hand done me."
THE BUDGET OF THE "CURRENCY LASS." 477
" Well, then, three cheers for the captain ! " proposed
But Wicks held up a shaking hand. " Not that either,
boys/' he pleaded. " Think of the other buffer, and let
him down easy. If I'm like this, just fancy what
Topelius is ! If he heard us singing out, he'd have the
As a matter of fact, Topelius accepted his defeat with
a good grace ; but the crew of the wrecked Leslie, who
were in the same employment and loyal to their firm,
took the thing more bitterly. Bough words and ugly
looks were common. Once even they hooted Captain
Wicks from the saloon verandah ; the Currency Lasses
drew out on the other side ; for some minutes there had
like to have been a battle in Butaritari ; and though the
occasion passed off without blows, it left on either sidl
an increase of ill-feeling.
No such small matter could affect the happiness of
the successful traders. Five days more the ship lay in
the lagoon, with little employment for any one but
Tommy and the captain for Topelius's natives dis-
charged cargo and brought ballast ; the time passed like
a pleasant dream ; the adventurers sat up half the night
debating and praising their good fortune, or strayed by
day in the narrow isle, gaping like Cockney tourists ;
and on the first of the new year, the Currency Lass
weighed anchor for the second time and set sail for
'"Frisco, attended by the same fine weather and good luck.
478 THE WKECKER.
She crossed the doldrums with but small delay; on a
wind and in ballast of broken coral, she outdid expecta-
tions ; and what added to the happiness of the ship's
company, the small amount of work that fell on them to
do, was now lessened by the presence of another hand.
This was the boatswain of the Leslie; he had been on bad
terms with his own captain, had already spent his wages
in the saloons of Butaritari, had wearied of the place,
and while all his shipmates coldly refused to set foot on
board the Currency Lass, he had offered to work his
passage to the coast. He was a north of Ireland man,
between Scotch and Irish, rough, loud, humorous, and
emotional, not without sterling qualities, and an expert
and careful sailor. His frame of mind was different
indeed from that of his new shipmates ; instead of mak-
ing an unexpected fortune, he had lost a berth ; and he
was besides disgusted with the rations, and really
appalled at the condition of the schooner. A stateroom
door had stuck, the first day at sea, and Mac (as they
called him) laid his strength to it and plucked it from
" Glory ! " said he, " this ship's rotten."
" I believe you, my boy," said Captain Wicks.
The next day the sailor was observed with his nose
"Don't you get looking at these sticks," the captain
said, " or you'll have a fit and fall overboard."
Mac turned towards the speaker with rather a wild
THE BUDGET OF THE " CUBRENCY LASS." 479
eye. "Why, I see what looks like a patch of dry rot up
yonder, that I bet I could stick my fist into," said he.
" Looks as if a fellow could stick his head into it, doa't
it ? " returned Wicks. " But there's no good prying into
things that can't be mended."
" I think I was a Currency Ass to come on board of
her ! " reflected Mac.
"Well, I never said she was seaworthy," replied the
captain : " I only said she could show her blooming heels
to anything afloat. And besides, I don't know that it's
dry rot ; I kind of sometimes hope it isn't. Here ; turn
to and heave the log ; that'll cheer you up."
"Well, there's no denying it, you're a holy captain,"
And from that day on, he made but the one reference
to the ship's condition ; and that was whenever Tommy
drew upon his cellar. " Here's to the junk trade ! " he
would say, as he held out his can of sherry.
" Why do you always say that ? " asked Tommy.
"I had an uncle in the business," replied Mac, and
launched at once into a yarn, in which an incredible
number of the characters were "laid out as nice as
you would want to see," and the oaths made up about
two-fifths of every conversation.
Only once he gave them a taste of his violence ; he
talked of it, indeed, often; "I'm rather a voilent
man," he would say, not without pride ; but this was the
onlf specimen. Of a sudden, he turned on Hemstead in
480 THE WRECKER.
the ship's waist, knocked him against the foresail boom,
tken knocked him under it, and had set him up and
knocked him down once more, before any one had drawn
" Here ! Belay that ! " roared Wicks, leaping to his
feet. " I won't have none of this."
Mac turned to the captain with ready civility. "I
only want to learn him manners," said he. "He took
and called me Irishman."
" Did he ? " said Wicks. " 0, that's a different story !
What made you do it, you tomfool? You ain't big
enough to call any man that."
"I didn't call him it," spluttered Hemstead, through
his blood and tears. " I only mentioned-like he was."
" Well, let's have no more of it," said Wicks.
"But you are Irish, aint you ? " Carthew asked of his
new shipmate shortly after.
"I may be," replied Mac, "but I'll allow no Sydney
duck to call me so. No," he added, with a sudden heated
countenance, "nor any Britisher that walks! Why,
look here," he went on, "you're a young swell, aren't
you ? Suppose I called you that ! ' I'll show you,' you
would say, and turn to and take it out of me straight."
On the 28th of January, when in lat. 27 20' K, long.
177 W., the wind chopped suddenly into the west, not
very strong, but puffy and with flaws of rain. The cap-
tain, eager for easting, made a fair wind of it and guyed
the booms out wing and wing. It was Tommy's trick a*
THE BUDGET OF THE "CURRENCY LASS." 481
the wheel, and as it was within half an hour of the
relief (seven thirty in the morning), the captain judged
it not worth while to change him.
The puffs were heavy but short ; there was nothing to
be called a squall, no danger to the ship, and scarce more
than usual to the doubtful spars. All hands were on
deck in their oilskins, expecting breakfast; the galley
smoked, the ship smelt of coffee, all were in good humour
to be speeding eastward a full nine ; when the rotten fore-
sail tore suddenly between two cloths and then split to
either hand. It was for all the world as though some
archangel with a huge sword had slashed it with the
figure of a cross ; all hands ran to secure the slatting
canvas; and in the sudden uproar and alert, Tommy
Hadden lost his head. Many of his days have been
passed since then in explaining how the thing happened ;
of these explanations it will be sufficient to say that they
were all different and none satisfactory ; and the gross fact
remains that the main boom gybed, carried away the
tackle, broke the mainmast some three feet above the
deck and whipped it overboard. For near a minute
the suspected foremast gallantly resisted ; then followed
its companion ; and by the time the wreck was cleared,
of the whole beautiful fabric that enabled them to skim
the seas, two ragged stumps remained.
In these vast and solitary waters, to be dismasted is
perhaps the worst calamity. Let the ship turn turtle
and go down, and at least the pang is over. But men
482 THE WRECKER.
chained on a hulk may pass months scanning the empty